PLENTY of green feed is helping to fuel buyer support for young cattle, even though prices have not reached the dizzy heights of last year.
Last week thousands of weaner steers and heifers went under the hammer selling for more than $800 a head, as many buyers saw these markets as the last opportunity to buy young cattle before Easter.
But even though there’s plenty of buyer interest, both vendors and agents agree the prices at this year’s sales are not matching the sky-high rates of last year.
Queensland bullock finishers Max and Tony Peterson, “Elizabeth Vale”, Killarney, always make the trip south to buy young cattle at the annual George and Fuhrmann Casino two-day weaner sale.
“The prices aren’t as crazy this year,” Max Peterson said.
“Last year we averaged about $640 for the steers we bought, where this year it was close to $600,” he said.
The Petersons picked up 92 Hereford weaner steers and agreed it was much easier to buy cattle at this year’s sale.
To their benefit, Tony Peterson said the middle run of steers were better quality and more even this year.
The early break in the season in the south of the State was evident in the buying patterns at Casino, with a large percentage of the cattle offered finding homes in southern NSW and Victoria, and also selling to Coolah, Glen Innes and Walcha, as well as Warwick and Goondiwindi in Queensland.
Meanwhile, at Glen Innes on Friday, prices were solid although some vendors suggested not up to the level of other recent sales.
The sale drew a large contingent of buyers from New England and further afield to Coonamble and Texas in southern Queensland.
Bob and Kate Wheatley, “Rosedale”, Deepwater, offered 106 Charolais/Angus and Angus/Hereford weaners which averaged $626/head.
Mr Wheatley was pleased with the prices he made, although they were back on last year.
“People were complaining about prices but in reality they were about 40c/kg cheaper than last year’s sale, so it really was a buyer’s market.”
Glen Innes Selling Agents Association president Barry Newberry said although the market was down on last year, he was upbeat about the cattle being sold in cents a kilogram.
“It worked extremely well,” he said.
Down the road at Armidale the weaner heifers were the highlight.
Armitage and Buckley agent Victor Moar, Armidale, said he was particularly impressed with the heifer market.
“Steers were a bit cheaper cents a kilogram-wise than our earlier sale in February, but dollars/head-wise they were about $40 dearer because the calves were a month older,” he said.
“We were really happy with the heifer market.
“It was as good as our earlier sale and superior to the current prime values.”
Lightweight heifers (less than 200kg) sold from $360 to $480 (217c/kg to 277c/kg), with mediumweight heifers making from $440 to $600 (205c/kg to 244c/kg).
Heifers heavier than 280kg sold from $560 to $685 (200c/kg to 225c/kg).
The top-priced pen of heifers (16 European-cross weighing more than 330kg) made $685/head and were bought by Shaun Platford, Rocky River, near Uralla.
The top-priced heifers were offered by Robert and Margaret Charleton, “Shady Springs”, Armidale.
The sales in the south at Goulburn and Cooma followed a similar trend to the north: solid results, but cheaper than last year.
Increased supply pressure was met by restockers with plenty of green feed looking to pick up a bargain – but there were few to be found.
At the 5000-head sale at Goulburn last Thursday, vendor Russ Derwent, “Bubalahla”, Taralga, said he wasn’t disappointed.
“The market is back from last year, but it’s still a good, strong sale.
“I’d rather be selling than buying,” he said.
Meanwhile, at Cooma last Wednesday there was a mixed response from buyers.
“The market is strong today considering it’s the first sale of the year,” said Rhine Falls buyer Susan Clear.
“I spent more than I wanted to.”
But on Friday at Cooma the sentiment was “strong, but not too dear” according to buyer David Russell, Jarrahmond, via Orbost, Victoria.
“It’s the best quality yarding I’ve seen for a while,” he said.